Up and comers shine at freestyle nationals 

Whistler's Eddie Hicks finishes season with two top five results


After clinching their sixth consecutive Nations Cup title on the World Cup circuit, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team returned home for the Canada Post National Championships at Val St. Come, Quebec.

Mikael Kingsbury, a rookie with the team, finished the World Cup season ranked third overall in moguls with 10 podium appearances on the World Cup circuit and at the World Championships. He seemed at home on the icy Quebec bumps, and added a national championship title to his medal collection.

Whistler's Eddie Hicks finished his season with two top-five results, picked up the silver medal, while Simon Pouliot-Cavanagh placed third.

Olympic champion Alexandre Bilodeau, nursing a bruised heel, opted to sit this one out.

"It was a great day," said Kingsbury, "I really wanted that title this year and I was a little nervous on the top because I knew the guys before me had good runs. I didn't push my max, but I skied clean and it went well."

For Eddie Hicks, this season has been about redemption. It was his first year with the national team, but he was sent back to North America midway through the World Cup season. His results were good up to that point; he just had the misfortune to be the fifth-ranked skier on the number one team in the world.

He attacked the NorAms, winning every single moguls event to take the overall title, then rejoined the World Cup tour for the final two events where he ranked fifth and fourth overall. That bumped him to 11th overall in the World Cup standings.

Bilodeau was second, Kingsbury third, Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau seventh and Cedric Rochon eighth.

"It feels really good," said Hicks of his silver. "I know I'm capable of being on top and there's certainly no shame in losing to (Kingsbury)."

The women's competition was all about who's next, with Jennifer Heil stepping down after more than a decade on the top of women's moguls. Summerland's Kristi Richards, who lives part-time in Pemberton, defended her national title, with sisters Chloe Dufour-Lapointe and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe taking second and third.

Whistler's Chelsea Henitiuk placed sixth.

"It definitely feels really good to hold onto the red bib, especially at the end of a long, hard season," said Richards. "The course today was gnarly. It warmed up and was slushy yesterday, then dropped to minus-10 today, so as you can imagine it was an entire block of ice with nice big, sharp, ice-chunk moguls. Really, my first run was terrible but I laid it down for finals."

The next day was for aerials, with titles going to Warren Shouldice and Sabrina Guerin - the most senior athletes with the team after Veronika Bauer was injured earlier in the season.

"I've always joked about being the greatest Canadian aerialist to never win Nationals, so I guess that dream will now go unfulfilled," joked Shouldice. Shouldice had a stellar season, making up for a late start with a win at home in Calgary and the world championship title.

Jonathan Vellner and Travis Gerrits were second and third for the men, while Maude Potvin-Gilbert was second for the women.

The final event was the dual moguls competition. Mikael Kingsbury took the men's title once again, edging Marc-Antoine Gagnon in the final dual to take the win.

"When I was young I watched Nationals at Mont Gabriel and I saw PA (Pierre Alexandre Rousseau) and Alex (Bilodeau) win. They were my heroes. With my wins this weekend I feel like I've joined their league, I can't quite believe it."

Simon Pouliot-Cavanagh and Eddie Hicks battled in the small final, with Pouliot-Cavanagh taking the bronze medal. Still, it was Hicks' best result this season in a dual moguls competition.

In the women's competition, 17-year-old Justine Dufour-Lapointet took the win and the title, along with the FIS Rookie of the Year honours. She beat her sister Maxime in the quarterfinals, then edged out Beatrice Bilodeau to face her other sister Chloe in the final dual. Bilodeau went on to win the bronze.

Kristi Richards was fifth on the day, while Chelsea Henitiuk placed sixth.





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